By George Bao Aug. 26, 2016
LOS ANGELES – U.S. Federal authorities have smashed a mail theft ring with 33 defendants, most of them are United States Postal Service (USPS) employees, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
Thirty-three defendants were charged as part of a sweep targeting criminal activity that has victimized USPS and its customers.
Most of the defendants charged as part of the sweep are USPS employees who allegedly stole mail, embezzled from the agency or, in one case, failed to deliver nearly 50,000 pieces of mail.
Arrest warrants were issued for 6 of the 33 defendants, who were recently charged as a result of investigations by the USPS’s Office of Inspector General. Most of the defendants were charged in indictments that were returned by federal grand juries on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the 33 defendants are charged across 28 cases, about half of which allege mail theft and/or possession of stolen mail by USPS employees and contractors.
Other cases charge USPS employees with conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, and false statements. Five of the cases allege crimes by non-employees, including mail theft and fraud related to the use of credit cards that had been stolen from the mail.
In one case announced Friday, the former local area president of the Mail Handlers Union was charged with conspiracy and possession of stolen mail. Jarol Garcia, 33, of Hemet, who formerly worked at the Moreno Valley Delivery Distribution Center as a mail handler, stole mobile phones from parcels going through the center and traded the phones after offering them for exchange on a website, according to an indictment, which also alleges that Garcia, in December 2015, possessed at least 166 mobile phones stolen from the mail.
Another case charges a mail carrier from the Mid-City District of Los Angeles with conspiracy to commit access device (credit card) fraud and to steal mail.
The indictment alleges that Norman A. Muschamp, 48, was part of a conspiracy to use information belonging to identity theft victims to order pre-paid PayPal debit cards that were sent to primarily non-existent addresses on his mail route.
Muschamp allegedly participated in the scheme by obtaining the PayPal debit cards from the mail and delivering them to co-conspirators in exchange for cash.
Investigators who are continuing to investigate the overall scheme believe it caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
In another case, a postal carrier from the Sawtelle District of Los Angeles was charged with delaying the mail by effectively hoarding the mail she was entrusted to deliver. Sherry Naomi Watanabe, 48, was found to have more than 48,000 pieces of mail in her residence, according to a plea agreement, that was supposed to be delivered to mail customers on her route in Placentia.
“The mail system plays an important role in our country’s commerce and social communication. Maintaining its integrity is vital,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
“Mail theft across Southern California has increased recently, which is significant since this type of crime tends to be a precursor to other crimes like identity theft and drug offenses. As a result, we are stepping up enforcement activities, including dealing aggressively with corruption within the Postal Service.”
“The overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees are honest and dedicated public servants who are worthy of our trust. However, when employees engage in criminal activity, our agency will aggressively investigate these matters to protect the overall integrity of the Postal Service,” said U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Brian Washington.
Defendants charged as part of the sweep will be arraigned in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Riverside.